Yakuza series order — how to play the PS Plus JRPGs chronologically

By Kes Eylers-Stephenson,

How do you play the Yakuza series in order? Well, the series has come from the PS2 era with style and constant iteration, remasters, and spin-offs. With the entire series being a part of the PS Plus tiers, we have a guide for you.

The Yakuza series is long and fabled, running over the PS2, PS3, PS4, and PS5 generations, with a PSP release thrown in for good measure. With such a long history of remakes, remasters, spin-offs, and reboots over time, how can you tell where best to start? Well, we are here to help you embark on this Yakuza journey chronologically — here is how to play the Yakuza series in order.

Yakuza series orderYakuza series in order

A brief overview

The JRPGs principally follow the character Kazuma Kiryu through his trials and tribulations with the Yakuza. These are open-world games that are totally fascinated with celebrating Japanese culture with joyous whimsy and humour while dishing up some crime drama. With such strong Japanese heritage, it took a little while for the games to find footing in the West — but the series have now settled and found a home here.

Published by Sega and developed by Ryu-Ga-Gotoku-Studio, the Yakuza series has been around these parts since 2006 when it released on PS2, with the latest mainline release being Yakuza Like a Dragon in 2020 for PS5 and PS4. Since then, the spin-off Judgment received a sequel called Lost Judgment, released in 2021 for PS5.

Here is how to play the series in order:

Yakuza Zero

screen3Yakuza 0 (PS4) — 2017

Yakuza EntryTime to platinumDifficultyPS Plus tier
Yakuza 0 Trophies120+ hoursiconPlayStation Plus Extra games (August 2022)
Yakuza 0 was released in 2017 in the west for PS3 and PS4 and — despite its position as the sixth mainline release — is set before the original 2006 Yakuza game on PS2 and PS3. This is because Yakuza 0 is a prequel set in late 1988 to early 1989 and is predicated on establishing the relationship between the central series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu and recurring series character Goro Majima as they scrabble for a plot of land called the Empty Lot.

The game really should be played first, not only because it is chronologically correct, but thanks to some of the changes made for the indirect Kiwami remakes of Yakuza 1 and 2. This game is all about building up the relationship between Kiryu and Majima which is also rejigged for the remakes — so this game sets thematic tones and lights the touch paper on very long story threads. The plot here is also required reading for the story of Yakuza 6.

Yakuza Kiwami

Yakuza Kiwami Xbox Game PassYakuza Kiwami (PS4) — 2017

Yakuza EntryTime to platinumDifficultyPS Plus tier
Yakuza Kiwami Trophies60+ hoursiconPlayStation Plus Extra games (August 2022)
Yakuza Kiwami is a remake of the 2006 original for PS4 using the Yakuza 0 engine. It isn't a direct remake, however; it builds out the relationship between Kazuma Kiryu and frenemy Goro Majima by expanding the role of the latter from the original PS2 game. The gameplay has been tweaked considerably (especially the combat) to bring it in line with the modern entries, so you will be able to play the game without any retro trouble.

Yakuza Kiwami really emphasises the crime drama angle. Tojo Clan Lieutenant Kiryu is blamed for his boss's death, despite a bit of in-house skullduggery involving fellow clan member Akira Nishikiyama. Kiryu and Nishikiyama have a strong personal connection, but once Kiryu gets out of prison ten years later in 2005, one can see why the jailbird is on the hunt for his now-Yakuza boss and former friend. With the Triad, 1 billion yen, and the government involved, the story will quickly drag you into a war that won't leave you alone.

Yakuza Kiwami 2

Yakuza Kiwami 2Yakuza Kiwami 2 (PS4) — 2018

Yakuza EntryTime to platinumDifficultyPS Plus tier
Yakuza Kiwami 2 Trophies70+ hoursiconPlayStation Plus Extra games (August 2022)
Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the remake of the second game in the series, originally released in the west in 2008 for PS2. Using the same Yakuza Zero engine as the first Kiwami game, the gameplay has been rejuvenated by making sure the old mechanics are suitable for modern audiences while elaborating on the original's story. This should be the third game you play as the reconceptualisation of Goro Majima and his importance to the series is carried over from Zero and Kiwami, whereas he was a recurring minor role in the original PS2 game.

It is now 2006 and Kiryu has left behind the Tojo Clan, but he cannot escape the past after Yukio Terada — an important clan member — is shanked by someone from the Omi Alliance. As Kiryu steps in to prevent a bloody war between his former Yakuza clan and the Omi, players will also be exploring a Kiwami 2-unique Majima Saga that explains what the man was up to between Kiwami and Kiwami 2.

Yakuza 3 Remastered

Yakuza 3Yakuza 3 Remastered (PS4) — 2019

Yakuza EntryTime to platinumDifficultyPS Plus tier
Yakuza 3 Remastered Trophies90+ hoursiconPlayStation Plus Premium games (Late 2022)
Yakuza 3 Remastered is a release of the 2009 PS3 original with a fresh coat of paint. While it does have extra content, Yakuza 3 Remastered is essentially the same game as the original. Therefore, of the bunch, it will be technically the oldest without any game engine revisions. After playing 0, Kiwami, and Kiwami 2 with their improvements, you will also experience a somewhat strange revision to older mechanics and an odd tonal shift in the relationship between Kiryu and Majima.

After the fallout of the second game, Kiryu is now responsible for an orphanage and asks Majima to pick up his abdicated role as an important part of the Yakuza. With the orphanage under threat from another clan, the story is muchly elongated from the other three games stretching over the next three years of Kiryu's life. The game emphasises the returning fictional Tokyo red light district Kamurocho and the seaside town Okinawa. This is a real pivotal point for Kiryu and a vital entry to continue his saga.

Yakuza 4 Remastered

yakuza 4 remsteredYakuza 4 Remstered (PS4) — 2019

Yakuza EntryTime to platinumDifficultyPS Plus tier
Yakuza 4 Remastered Trophies70+ hoursiconPlayStation Plus Premium games (Late 2022)
Yakuza 4 Remastered came to PS4 in 2019 as a revision of the 2011 PS3 title. The game opens up the floor to three more protagonists outside of the legendary dragon Kiryu: Masayoshi Tanimura, Shun Akiyama, and Taiga Saejima. With this shift in focus comes an expansion of the side activities and core gameplay loops, with each having a different combat style and personality. The setting focused on Kamurocho, Tokyo — but with an emphasis on adding depth to the recurring location.

Naturally, Yakuza 4 brings the clan drama back to 1985 when a mass shooting wiped out 18 men. The complex reasons behind the shooting fuel the four-character tangle in present-day 2010. Series long-stay Kiryu must grapple with these new figures as he tries to untangle the Tojo Clan's long rivalry with the Ueno Seiwa Clan.

Yakuza 5 Remastered

Yakuza 5 RemasteredYakuza 5 Remastered (PS4) — 2020

Yakuza EntryTime to platinumDifficultyPS Plus tier
Yakuza 5 Remastered Trophies120+ hoursiconPlayStation Plus Premium games (Late 2022)
Yakuza 5 Remastered is the last entry in the Yakuza Remastered collection. This takes the heavily delayed 2015 PS3 game and touches it up a bit, but given its relative recency, it's pretty far ahead of the other two Remastered games, helped along by a new game engine. This means you have a selection of five much larger cities to explore, along with a then series record of five main characters. While Kiryu obviously returns for his penultimate saga appearance, so do Akiyama and Saejima from Yakuza 4. Returning series character Haruka Sawamura is also playable along with newbie Tatsuo Shinada.

It's late 2012 and the peace between the Tojo Clan and Omi Alliance is shaky — made worse by the passing of an Omi higher-up. At the time, Kiryu is but a humble taxi driver, but now must return to the underworld in order to keep his personal assets safe. Each character has a sub-plot to untangle giving you several strong plot lines to cling onto, but this entry has plenty to do outside of that with its incredible array of side activities and dazzling locations. This game marks the end of the PS3 era of the Yakuza.

Yakuza 6 The Song of Life

E3 2017Yakuza 6 The Song of Life (PS4) — 2018

Yakuza EntryTime to platinumDifficultyPS Plus tier
Yakuza 6 The Sony of Life Trophies35+ hoursiconPlayStation Plus Extra games (Late 2022)
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life was released in 2018 for PS4 but released in between the two Kiwami remakes of Yakuza 1 and 2. That means it is weirdly positioned at the time between the two original titles, despite marking the end of our time with the series' main character Kiryu. The gameplay here is a perfect refinement of what has come before using a new 'Dragon Engine,' though it does strip out a lot of the mini-games that made the previous titles sing. Instead, it has a laser focus on the story with Kiryu just being released from prison in 2016 after the events of the fifth entry.

That means our former Dragon of Dojima is the only main playable character, with his fighting style tapered down to one singular style. You see, Kiryu gets out of jail again and discovers the series' former playable character and main-stay Haruka is in a coma. With her son left alone in the world, Kiryu is obligated to tackle the Yakuza world again despite his best effort to resist it. This is the final chapter of Kiryu's saga, with the next entry set up with a new protagonist.

Yakuza Like A Dragon

YakuzaYakuza Like a Dragon (PS4, PS5) — 2020/2021

Yakuza EntryTime to platinumDifficultyPS Plus tier
Yakuza: Like A Dragon Trophies80+ hoursiconPlayStation Plus Essential games (August 2022 monthly game)
Yakuza Like a Dragon was released for both PS5 (2021) and PS4 (2020), and serves as a soft reboot for the series. Up steps Ichiban Kasuga as our new protagonist fresh out of an 18-year stint in prison. However, when he is betrayed by his Yakuza boss, Ichiban must take a different path from his companions and unravel the machinations of the Japanese underworld.

The game was built in the same Dragon Engine but features turn-based RPG mechanics to spice things up. It still has the side activities to make your mouth water in the new location of Isezaki Ijincho, though some former Yakuza game locations are still present. The amount of playable characters is once more amped up from the prior games, with the ex-nurse Nanba, bad cop Adachi, and driven hostess Saeko all a part of your party. This soft reboot wraps up the current Yakuza mainline games.

There you go! All the Yakuza games are in chronological order for you to explore as they start hitting PlayStation Plus. Eventually, we will add a section on the spin-off, but this is more than enough for now! Do you have any favourites? Let us know in the comments!
Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Written by Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Associate Editor Kes is our resident expert in PlayStation news. He writes about upcoming exclusives like The Last of Us and God of War, PS Plus and PS Studios news, and his favourite games — The Witcher 3, Assassin’s Creed, and The Outer Wilds — before an evening swim.